Recycling speeches and respecting your audience

Recycling image

Recycling is cool, unless you’re recycling speeches.

I recently had the misfortune to sit through a speech that had clearly been recycled.

The delivery was second to none, the timing perfect and the presenter suitably charming.

But the impact was zero.

Why? Because I, and everyone else in the audience, quickly realised that we had just witnessed a recycled speech – a speech that the presenter had written previously for another event, and quickly reworked to fit this occasion.

The title had been changed to fit the criteria of the conference we were attending. The names and roles in the anecdotes had been changed to match those that the audience could relate to and the final giveaway was that at one point the presenter actually got it wrong and referred to a role and person that was not even in our industry…

Oh, and there was the empty feeling that everyone in the audience felt when the speaker concluded.

A recycled speech won’t engage an audience and we were living proof. The speech felt forced, tenuous and irrelevant and as such, we were left wondering where the last 20 minutes of our lives had gone. I can’t help thinking how disappointed the speaker might have been if he had known how his audience had been left feeling. Would he have done things differently and not recycled his speech?

I hope so.

Why do we recycle speeches? Generally it’s down to time pressures, and as such you will often find that those who speak in public on a regular basis recycle their speeches. In the past few years I have seen several speakers do this, and every time heard an audience member comment on how the message was good, but felt…well…hmm…not quite right.

The lesson? Always produce original content for your audience. You want them to give you the respect of listening to what you have the say, and so it would be hypocritical to not give them the respect of producing original, relevant content.

Yes, there will be lines that you recycle. There will be anecdotes that you reuse. There will be jokes that you rehash. But if it’s the whole speech that you recycle, then don’t expect respect (or engagement) from your audience.

Rant over.

(I also henceforth solemnly pledge never to recycle a speech – will you join me?)

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Rich Watts is the UK Business Speaker of the Year and a past JCI National Public Speaking champion. He setup and now runs Rich Public Speaking providing presentation skills and public speaking training.

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